When parents send their kids off to school in Tuscaloosa County, they feel good about it. And that holds true whether the child (or children) is leaving home for kindergarten or leaving home for college--or anywhere in between, for that matter.
Education is a big business in Tuscaloosa County. But, much more importantly - it’s a top priority among the citizenry and business and industry leaders. So, education has become sound and secure, and graduates from the two public school systems and the private high schools claim millions of dollars of scholarships every year.
Business and industry support education in many ways, including participating in an Adopt-A-School Program that has drawn attention nationwide. So, quadrennial elections for the two public system school boards draw a lot of attention and involvement.
The Tuscaloosa County School System oversees students in 32 schools (19 elementary schools, eight middle schools, and five high schools) around the county. Three new state-of-the-art schools were opened in August of 2008 – Lake View Elementary, Northport Elementary, and Duncanville Middle.
The County System manages the Sprayberry Regional Education Center, which serves two distinct bodies of students. In one section, highly trained teachers and therapists work with young people who have moderate to severe handicaps, while in the other section, dedicated teachers work with gifted students who come to the TARGET program once a week to be challenged in special ways.
Graduates from county high schools (who receive training in workplace and social skills and participate in many extra-curricular activities as part of their education) consistently grab more than $l million in scholarships and achieve distinction in colleges and universities throughout the country.
More than 10,000 young people, from kindergarten through senior high school, attend 12 neighborhood elementary and five middle schools and five high schools. A brand new Central High School was completed in downtown Tuscaloosa. Two other new high schools (Paul W. Bryant High School and Northridge High School) already serve students. These three schools were formed from the "old" Central High School, which had achieved acclaim by having more teachers chosen for the Presidential Award of Excellence than any other high school in Alabama.
Among the many offerings of the city system are advanced placement, the International Baccalaureate Program, American Studies and the Tuscaloosa Center for Technology. Oak Hill School provides specialized education for special children.
Both school systems receive strong and consistent support from the business community. Perhaps the flagship effort in this regard is the Adopt-A-School Program, a 20-year-old progeny of the The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.
Approximately 79 businesses, industries and organizations (often singly but sometimes in pairs or trios) work with all individual schools in the county system and the city system. The program is managed at the Chamber with help from an all-volunteer Steering Committee. The Chamber is also involved in other efforts to prepare young people for life after formal education. The CHOICES program involves volunteers from business and industry going to eighth-grade classes for an interactive discussion of the importance of making good choices. The Forerunners Program is a leadership development program patterned after the adult version (Leadership Tuscaloosa) that helps 40 or so young people each year learn about various aspects of their community.
In addition, the Chamber oversees a School-to-Career website that has a database of lesson plans that teach job skills in an academic environment and a speakers’ bureau of people from business and industry who have agreed to go into the classroom to talk about the workplace.
A productive public-private partnership provides the foundation for the development of the regional workforce in Tuscaloosa County and West Alabama. Employer and business-driven through The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, the area benefits from school-to-career programming as well as innovative, comprehensive workforce development system to serve both employers and potential employees - the newly established Center For Workforce Development, headquartered at Shelton State Community College.
Initiatives through The Chamber's collaborative leadership with local school systems and Shelton State Community College have resulted in work-based and school-based programs, professionals and curriculum development, and emphasis on career-technical education. Teacher internships and apprenticeship initiatives are resulting in increased awareness of workforce applications in the classroom and among students, all working together to expand a skilled 21st century workforce.
Tuscaloosa County has some innovative and successful private schools. Some are religious-based; some are college preparatory. They include Tuscaloosa Academy , The Capitol School,American Christian Academy , Tuscaloosa Christian School, Holy Spirit School and Open Door School.
Regardless of what high school they graduate from, students who want a higher level of academic work have some great options right in their own hometown.
Founded in 1831, the University now has an enrollment of around 27,000 students and offers 275 degrees in more than 150 fields of study.
In addition to an outstanding core curriculum, the University offers extensive international study opportunities, internship programs and cooperative education placement.
University faculty and staff often participate in the local civic affairs, and University leadership has played a strong role in community and economic development. For example, the institution was heavily involved in the recruitment of JVC America and Mercedes-Benz U. S. International to Tuscaloosa County.
Reaching out to the community is standard fare for the University. Some examples:Alabama Institute For Manufacturing Excellence (AIME)
An interdisciplinary center using computer modeling and information systems – as well as resources and personnel from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, and the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, AIME responds to the research and development needs of business and industryAlabama Productivity Center
This center focuses faculty and student resources on productivity, quality and competitive issues faced by Alabama business and industry. A wide variety of applied research and consultation services are provided by this center as well.Center For Business and Economic Research (CBER)
This center promotes economic development throughout Alabama through research and public service. CBER is the state's primary center for economic and demographic data and analysis, and the center often provides research assistance for local economic and community development initiatives.Enterprise Integration Lab
This lab aids organizations in leveraging information technology to compete in world markets, and develops techniques to integrate business activities through intelligent communications, commands and control structures.Small Business Development Center
This center fosters start-up businesses and the growth of small businesses through one-on-one counseling, workshops, and the transfer of information. Advisory services and business planning assistance are also available.Alabama International Trade Center
One of the nation's first university-based centers, AITC provides professional expertise in the promotion and development of international business; and helps companies with business development, market research, export training, strategic planning and other programs to enhance the ability to enter the global marketplace.
Stillman College, located on a beautiful campus near the downtown area of Tuscaloosa is four-year liberal arts institution. Established in 1876 by the Presbyterian Church, Stillman has an annual enrollment of about 1000 students.
Stillman offers degrees and programs in a wide range of subject areas - including business, computer science, social sciences, humanities, religion, international studies and music. The college also has pre-professional programs in engineering, law, ministry, medicine and social work.
The 100-acre Stillman campus is noted for its stately magnolias and spacious, well-maintained grounds. To meet continued growth and demand, the college is expanding its facilities at a rapid rate.
Shelton State Community College is a state-supported comprehensive community college with the primary purpose is to provide accessible, postsecondary education in academic, technical and occupational fields. It is one of Alabama's largest and oldest two-year institutions and has an annual enrollment of more than 7500 students.
Located in a $40 million campus complex south of Tuscaloosa, Shelton State also administers the C.A. Fredd Campus, which is designated as a Historical Black College.
Shelton offers Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees in a wide variety of academic and technical subject areas. In addition, there is an array of certificate courses, lifelong learning experiences, and highly effective training support for business and industry.
The college is also the site of the Center for Workforce Development, a public-private partnership of all parties interested in building a skilled 21st century workforce.
The Tuscaloosa County Public Library is a vital and integral part of the community's educational efforts, and recently underwent a massive remodeling. The library has expanded start-of-the-art technology, computer labs, an exceptional genealogy and local history section and archives room, and a link to the Alabama Virtual Library.The Weaver-Bolden Branch Library on Tuscaloosa's west side was recently refurbished and serves a growing clientele. Plans are underway to increase the number of branch libraries in the next few years.
Tuscaloosa City Schools
Tuscaloosa County Schools
Shelton State Community College
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa Public Library